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Editor: Paul L. Caron
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chodorow: What It Would Mean For The IRS If Scientists Defeat Mortality

WilliamsSlate, Death and Taxes: What It Would Mean for the IRS If Scientists Defeat Mortality, by Adam Chodorow (Arizona State):

It has long been said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. If you still haven’t filed your taxes, or if you were hit with a big bill this year, the former might seem more appealing than the latter right now. However, the aphorism is death and taxes, not death or taxes. Even kicking the bucket cannot provide an escape.

But what if death isn’t so certain? How would that affect taxes? In a 2012 law review article titled “Death and Taxes and Zombies,” I considered the important question of whether those who die and come back as zombies should be considered dead for estate tax purposes. The answer to this question is important both for the government, which will need significant revenues to protect the living, and for individual taxpayers, who may be tempted to escape the estate tax by becoming zombies.

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April 15, 2015 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Camp: Overlooked Costs of IRS Budget Cuts Will Hit Taxpayers Hardest

IRS Logo 2Bryan Camp (Texas Tech), Overlooked Costs of IRS Budget Cuts Will Hit Taxpayers Hardest:

The Internal Revenue Service takes a lot of hits, both from those who are paid to be critics like the National Taxpayer Advocate and from those who just pile on for the fun of it – politicians, pundits and the public.

The nastiest hit has come from Congress in the form of relentless budget cuts for the past five years. While there has been a fair bit of commentary on the effect of these cuts, commentators have missed two important points: (1) the cuts are deeper than most people think, and (2) their effect is both more subtle and insidious.

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April 15, 2015 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 705

IRS Logo 2Letter From Orrin Hatch (Chair, Senate Finance Committee) to John Koskinen (Commissioner, IRS) (Apr. 13, 2015):

At a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing, I noted the long, historic relationship of the Internal Revenue Service and the Senate Finance Committee. The challenges of the IRS in the coming years will be great, as your agency struggles with the implementation of new federal programs and doing more with limited resources. The next chapter in our relationship is a critical one, and I hope a good one, but as I noted at the hearing, that is ultimately up to you.

I also warned that attempts to limit political speech through the tax code would not be tolerated, and would only serve to “further entangle your agency in political debate and controversy.” Two years ago, your agency put forth proposed regulations that would upend half-century-old rules regarding get out the vote drives, voter registration, and other activities by tax exempt organizations. This rule was withdrawn after intense opposition across the political spectrum. You recently announced that the IRS would seek to broaden the rule, restricting the speech and activities of an even wider range of tax exempt organizations. You are starting down a very dangerous road.

You have explained that this attempt to restrict the rights of groups to organize and speak out was in response to the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups and 2013 recommendations by the Inspector General. You have also explained that new rules were necessary to prevent further targeting. Both claims are false.

Congressional investigations have established that the Treasury Department began work on the proposal in 2011, long before the Inspector General’s recommendations and during the height of the political targeting, rather than in response to it. Furthermore, interviews with front-line IRS employees established that those workers were processing applications from conservative groups in a timely fashion and without difficulty, until political officials in Washington, DC intervened. The problem was not the rules governing tax exempt entities – the problem was officials at IRS and Treasury Department headquarters further involving your agency into the political speech of Americans across the country. Rather than preventing further targeting, the new proposal – should you proceed with it – will be the systemization of targeting through law.

As it is, the IRS faces seemingly insurmountable challenges in implementing the President’s health care overhaul and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act with limited resources. The IRS is just beginning to recover its reputation, and your agency is just beginning to regain trust from lawmakers. Do not throw all of that away in a quixotic and bizarre mission to regulate the political activity of Americans. If you do so, in light of your agency’s recent history, your actions will be viewed with the presumption of political bias and bad faith. If you issue this proposed rule, Congress will have no choice but to investigate the reasons behind this power grab, be it political motivation or orders from officials at the Treasury Department or the White House. To that end, and in anticipation of the Administration moving ahead on this issue, I ask that you begin putting in place document retention policies for all documents and communication related to your agency’s work regarding these proposals. This retention should include, but is not limited to, all handwritten notes, memoranda, and electronic communication on the matter.

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April 14, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, April 13, 2015

WaPo Fact Checker: Who Wrote the 'IRS Code'?

WaPo Fact CheckerWashington Post Fact Checker, Who Wrote the ‘IRS Code’? Hint: It Wasn’t the Internal Revenue Service:

On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — not a one of them as good.
–Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), speech at International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference, March 10, 2015

The Fact Checker previously wrote that Cruz’s comparison was ultimately meaningless — not worthy of a Geppetto Checkmark nor a Pinocchio — because saying one piece of text has more words than another doesn’t really tell you anything. A lot of readers responded to us via e-mail and social media — some critical, some appreciative and a few amused.

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April 13, 2015 in Congressional News, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

John Oliver and Michael Bolton Defend The IRS

(Click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

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April 13, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 704

IRS Logo 2CNS News, Lerner Email Warned IRS Employees of Emails That ‘Can Be Seen By Congress’:

Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), warned other IRS officials that lower-level employees “are not as sensitive as we are to the fact that anything we write can be public--or at least be seen by Congress,” according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch and released on Thursday.

In the latest batch of documents the IRS released to Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which the agency heavily redacted before handing over, Lerner proposed training to help IRS employees “understand the pitfalls” of discussing “specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties” in emails that could be "seen by Congress" or the public.

“We are all a bit concerned about the mention of specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties. Our filed folks are not as sensitive as we are to the fact that anything we write can be public--or at least be seen by Congress,” Lerner wrote in an email to Holly Paz, former director of the IRS Office of Rulings and Agreements, on Feb. 16, 2012.

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April 13, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 703

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Lerner Pushed Treasury Watchdog to Back Off 'Targeting' Charge in Probe:

Former IRS senior executive Lois Lerner appeared to be pressuring Treasury Department inspector general investigators to back off their conclusion that the federal tax agency had improperly targeted conservative and Tea Party nonprofit tax exemption applicants.

In an email on Jan. 31, 2013, Lerner encouraged Troy Patterson of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to back off of his investigators' view that the tax agency was targeting political groups for excessive attention.

"We feel your folks are being too narrow in their view and have decided that because of the language on the earlier BOLO list regarding Tea Party, everything that followed was tainted. They seem to believe that if a case was initially sent to the advocacy group, but ultimately determined to be an approval, that our action in putting it into the advocacy group in the first place is incorrect, and illustrates 'targeting,'" she said.

"BOLO" was the tax agency's abbreviation for categories of nonprofit applicants to "be on the lookout" for as they were received.

PJ Media, Lerner Email Shows Attempt to Pressure IG Conclusions in IRS Targeting Scandal:

About 5 months before former director of the IRS exempt division Lois Lerner casually let slip the revelation that her department had been targeting conservative organizations for special scrutiny, she sent an email to the inspector general investigating the matter, accusing the IG of being “too narrow” in their scope of the targeting investigation, claiming that she was just doing her job.

It is unusual for the subject of an investigation to plead their case so directly with the inspector general. But the email also shows that Lerner was well aware of the problems in her office with targeting and was looking for a break from the IG in reaching his conclusions.

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April 12, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 702

IRS Logo 2The Blaze, ‘America Is Fed Up’: GOP Schedules Votes on Major IRS Reforms Next Week:

The House next week is expected to pass several bills aimed at reforming the IRS, in

particular the way the IRS handles applications for groups seeking tax-exempt status.

That issue has been highly controversial since it was revealed that the IRS applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status just before the 2012 election. The resulting scandal forced former IRS official Lois Lerner to leave the agency, although Lerner has so far dodged any punishment for her role.

For example, the Justice Department just said it won’t prosecute Lerner for her decision not to testify before Congress about her actions in the targeting scandal.

GOP leaders say the IRS needs real reform, and quickly, to ensure it doesn’t become a political weapon for whichever party runs the executive branch.

“The IRS has maliciously targeted individuals and groups simply because of their personal beliefs,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told his colleagues on Thursday. “The current system is unfair and America is fed up.”

Three of the bills up next week deal with the targeting scandal. One of these, from Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), would try to to ensure the IRS can no longer play politics with tax exempt applications by allowing groups to declare tax-exempt status on their own, without having to wait for the IRS.

Another from Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) calls for the firing of any IRS worker that delays their tasks for political reasons, such as slow-walking the tax-exempt status of a political group. And the third, from Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), would require the Treasury Department to issue regulations allowing groups to appeal decisions by the IRS not to grant them tax-exempt status.

The bills are being considered long after the targeting scandal broke, which shows a lingering resentment among conservatives, and a feeling that reforms are still needed at the tax collection agency. Just last month, some Republicans accused the IRS of quietly working to undo some of the reforms Congress has tried to impose on it, by putting forward a budget plan that doesn’t include language related to ending the political targeting of tax-exempt groups.

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April 11, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, April 10, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 701

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch Press Release, IRS Documents Reveal Lerner Knew Targeting Criteria of Nonprofit Groups ‘Might Raise Questions’:

Judicial Watch today released a new batch of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents, including an email from former IRS official Lois Lerner in February 2012 asking that a program be set up to “put together some training points to help them [IRS staffers] understand the potential pitfalls” of revealing too much information to Congress.  The documents also contain a Lerner email from 2013 in which she says she is willing to take the blame on some aspects of the scandal.  She also indicates that she “understands why the IRS criteria” leading to the targeting of Tea Party and other opponents of the President Obama “might raise questions.”

The documents were released under court order in one of the Judicial Watch’s ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits about the Obama IRS’ abuses (Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-1559).

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April 10, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

NY Times: IRS Shortcut to Tax-Exempt Status Is Under Fire

1023 2New York Times, IRS Shortcut to Tax-Exempt Status Is Under Fire:

Battered by a scandal over delays in approving groups for tax-exempt status and plagued by a backlog tens of thousands of cases long, the Internal Revenue Service unveiled a strikingly stripped-down online application last year to speed the process.

But to critics, the I.R.S.’s version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is fraught with problems. An unlikely coalition of tax lawyers, state enforcement agents and even many nonprofits that favor simpler rules say that the agency — by not asking any questions about governance, conflicts of interest or function, and saying applicants don’t have to reveal any such issues — is making it too easy to commit fraud.

The form, 1023-EZ, was introduced over the summer and is available to small charities with an annual income of $50,000 or less and assets under $250,000. Instead of wrestling with a painstaking 26-page application that demands extensive documentation, these groups can now fill out a two-and-a-half page checklist that requires no additional paperwork or even a statement of purpose. ...

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April 9, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 700

IRS Logo 2Philip T. Hackney (LSU), Should the IRS Never 'Target' Taxpayers? An Examination of the IRS Tea Party Affair, 49 Val. U. L. Rev. ___ (2015):

In 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration faulted the Internal Revenue Service for the appearance of impartiality because it used names and policy positions such as “Tea Party” and conservative ideology to pick applications for tax-exempt status for greater scrutiny. The Inspector General's review came after members of Congress accused the Service of "targeting" conservative organizations. This Article finds the Inspector General's claim lacks a firm foundation. The use of names to select organizations for closer review fits well within the discretionary space that both Congress and courts provide to the Service to collect revenue. However, a narrower legal and ethical claim is supportable: where an enforcement choice impinges on a fundamental constitutional right the Service should exercise a higher degree of care to ensure that its screening choices do not appear biased in an unconstitutional manner. Thus, this review finds the Inspector General's primary claim regarding it being inappropriate to use names to screen applications to be incorrect. However, it finds that the Service violated an ethical norm because it failed to bring a high level of care to a matter that at least impinged on a fundamental Constitutional right. The Article recommends that the Service continue using names to screen applications for tax-exempt status. However, the Article suggests the Service implement procedures to document an unbiased process when evaluating applications that raise questions of a fundamental Constitutional nature.

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April 9, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed

Bloomberg, An Emotional Audit: IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed:

Paying taxes to the IRS is no fun. Neither is working there.

The IRS has never been an easy place to work. Its 84,000 employees, 65 percent of them women, generally don’t tell people outside the service where they draw a paycheck. It’s no way to make friends. They toil in purposely anonymous buildings—a big sign outside might attract crazies. In 2010 an antigovernment zealot flew a single-engine plane into a building in Austin, Texas, where 190 agency employees worked, killing one of them. “Well, Mr. Big Brother I.R.S. man, let’s try something different, take my pound of flesh and sleep well,” the pilot, Joseph Stack III, wrote in a six-page suicide note.

More recently, the IRS has become a casualty of the budget battles between the Obama White House and House Republicans. Since the GOP won control of the chamber in 2010, the agency’s annual budget has fallen by $1.2 billion, to $10.9 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, the agency has lost 11 percent of its employees. Last year it started 19 percent fewer criminal investigations than 2013. This year alone, it expects to close at least 46,000 fewer audits. Nobody likes being scrutinized by the IRS, but audits are a key component of the tax system that keeps the U.S. afloat. “It’s core to the country,” says Jeffery Trinca, a former Senate aide turned lobbyist who specializes in tax policy.

The agency’s customer service operation has been hobbled, too. In late March, the IRS said fewer than 40 percent of the people who call during this tax season will get through to someone. A decade ago, the figure was 83 percent. The agency is so short on funds that some employees purchase their own office supplies, even though the IRS says they shouldn’t. “I buy my own pens,” says Catherine Ficco, a revenue officer in West Nyack, N.Y. “I buy my own clips and hole punchers and things of that nature. It’s not uncommon. There’s no money to order supplies or paper for my printer.”

Bloomberg

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April 8, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (28)

The IRS Scandal, Day 699

GroverNews Max, Grover Norquist: IRS 'Kneecapped' Tea Party for Obama in 2012:

The IRS stole the 2012 presidential election with its ruthless targeting of the tea party, an order that came from President Barack Obama himself, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, tells Newsmax TV.

Norquist — author of the new book End the IRS Before It Ends Us: How to Restore a Low Tax, High Growth, Wealthy America — said the agency dramatically slowed the tea party movement's growth when it questioned the validity of their tax-exempt status.

"That the attack on the tea party in 2011 and 2012 actually made sure that Obama got re-elected," Norquist said Tuesday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV. "They kneecapped the growing tea party movement, slowed it down, scattered it. ...

"The president said out loud, would somebody please get these people for me? And we saw Lois Lerner say, I'm being told and yelled at to do this even though I'm not legally allowed to," Norquist said.

"The president was saying it out loud, the Democrats in the Senate were saying it out loud on television, on radio. They sent her to go after the tea party and they damaged the tea party. They kneecapped a growing movement."

Washington Examiner, Norquist Book: IRS Assault on Tea Party Saved Obama's Presidency:

The administration-ordered persecution of Tea Party groups shut down the movement in time to save President Obama's reelection and starve Republican Mitt Romney of the 4,262,296 votes needed to take the White House, according to an explosive new book from tax foe Grover Norquist.

In End The IRS Before It Ends Us, a clarion call for a new, fairer tax system, Norquist pieces together the IRS scandal and scholarly electoral studies to show that plot worked to stifle the expanding Tea Party movement in the nick of time to help Obama.

"Had the Tea Party repeated and built on their activism of 2009 and 2010 in 2011 and 2012, Obama would have lost the election. What happened to the Tea Party boost? It didn't grow from 2010. It appeared to weaken," writes Norquist, president of the influential Americans for Tax Reform.

But, he adds, "The Tea Party didn't fall down the stairs. It was pushed."

His theory is built on two key facts.

First, he cited a study on the Tea Party movement that found it pushed up to 5.8 million extra Republican voters to the polls in 2010 when the GOP took control of the House, essentially shutting down Obama's agenda.

Then he cites comments in official reports from former IRS executive Lois Lerner, the key figure in the scandal, who said that she received orders in advance of Obama's reelection to "do something" to shut off conservative funding in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. ...

"In our modern kneecapping, President Obama was Tonya Harding," scoffed Norquist. "The American people who had voted strongly in 2010 and threatened the president's chances of winning in 2010 were Nancy Kerrigan," he added. ...

"In the two years running up to the 2012 Obama re-election campaign, the IRS, driven by a political activist with no experience that would recommend her for that job, decided to smash the Tea Party movement by stopping them from organizing," Norquist concludes.

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April 8, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 698

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Despite Lois Lerner Pass, Judge Orders IRS To Release Key Target List Administration Blocked, by Robert W. Wood:

A federal judge, Judge Susan J. Dlott—ironically in Cincinnati, where the Obama administration’s first bumbling explanation for targeting was “rogue IRS agents”—has ordered the IRS to produce a list of all 298 conservative nonprofits the IRS targeted. ‘Huh, what targeting?’ one can imagine Justice Department officials mumbling. Mr. Obama’s Justice Department fought to keep the list private despite promises his would be the most transparent administration ever.

The lawsuit by conservative groups could end up certified as a class action for violating their constitutional right to equal treatment. The judge determined that the litigants were entitled to know so the judge ordered the IRS to release the list of targeted Tea Party groups. If the judge also certifies the case as a class action, the disclosures could be broader still.

The timing is propitious, coming just as Targeter in Chief Lois Lerner was exonerated by the Obama administration. It has confirmed in a tortured seven-page letter that there will be no criminal charges for Lois Lerner. Meanwhile, controversial IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently claimed that the changes at the IRS are so significant that “you could hang a sign out at the front of the headquarters saying ‘Under New Management.’” That’s right, any alleged targeting was in the past. ...

On February 26, 2015, the Treasury Inspector General said he is investigating possible criminal activity at the IRS. Remember all the millions and millions in taxpayer money spent looking? One report said over 250 IRS employees spend 100,000 hours, costing taxpayers at least $14 million. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified that recovery efforts had been thorough, and the tapes and emails couldn’t be found.

Yet the Inspector General now reports that the IRS had not even asked for the backup tapes when the ‘hard drive crash’ excuse was first used. The tapes were easy to find and the emails were easy to recover. It is astounding, and yet Democrats still pooh-pooh the targeting and imply it is the fault of the conservative groups in the first place. ...

[N]ow Judge Susan J. Dlott has said that Tea Party groups can pursue their claims that the IRS violated their First and Fifth Amendment rights, along with a section of federal law that prohibits the government from releasing private information contained in tax returns. The lawsuit wants a list of ‘all dissenting groups targeted for additional scrutiny by the IRS from January 20, 2009, through July 15, 2013.’ The court said this information was “directly related to the issue of class certification in this federal court proceeding.”

Some names on the list will be no surprise, as a partial list was unearthed by USA Today in September 2013. An IRS spreadsheet characterized the activities of some groups as “propaganda.” Judge Dlott ordered the IRS to tell the court whether or not that list was authentic, The Washington Times reported. It sad to see the IRS used for political purposes, and sad to see the endless difficulty private parties and Congress have had getting answers. Perhaps that will change.

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April 7, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Scamming the IRS With Losing Lottery Tickets

IRSThe Daily Beast, Scamming the IRS With Losing Lotto Tix:

Here’s one way to dodge the taxman—buy thousands of losing lottery tickets.

It’s true. Gamblers have concocted a scheme to repurpose the dud ducats to offset their winnings. A winner can go online and get $5,000 worth of losing lottery tickets to cover their $5,000 in gambling winnings. The lottery tickets serve as a sort of security blanket if the auditor comes calling.

Ads captured on Craigslist and eBay from Florida to California hawk the tickets so the potential lotto buyer can defraud Uncle Sam. ...

“There is a gray market out there for these lottery tickets,” said Reece Morrel Jr., an Oklahoma-based CPA who files taxes for some high rollers and oversees the online Lady Luck Diary website, where gamblers can get schooled on tax laws.

But hoarding stacks of scratchers or Powerball game tickets to prove that you suffered losses could very well land you in trouble with the IRS. ...

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April 6, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 697

IRS Logo 2Legal Insurrection, Judge Orders IRS to Release Tea Party Target List:

If Bush had done this to liberals, people would be in jail by now.

The Department of Justice may have let Lois Lerner off the hook, but a judge has ordered the IRS to release the names of the Tea Party groups that were singled out for scrutiny. ..

I still enjoy wondering how different this would be if it happened on Bush’s watch. Do you think the media might be more interested?

Hot Air, Judge Orders IRS to Release List of Targeted Conservative Nonprofit Groups:

Lois Lerner didn’t care to speak when she was invited for tea before congressional committees, and it turns out that no charges will be filed against her over her shyness. But that may not be the end of the story for the IRS scandal. A judge in Ohio has consented to a request filed by representatives of several Tea Party groups which calls for the IRS to turn over the full list of conservative groups selected for extra special scrutiny when they filed for nonprofit status. ...

There are several layers to this particular onion. The White House fought back from day one against any such disclosures, saying that releasing the requested information would require exposing private data which the IRS is forbidden to reveal. But that’s only intended to protect individuals, businesses and groups from having all the particulars about their internal business exposed, not the simple fact that they exist and pay taxes. In this suit, rather than asking for all of the numbers, the IRS is simply being asked to provide a spreadsheet containing the identities of the groups under scrutiny. The judge agreed that the case couldn’t be decided without that bare minimum data.

More interesting are the possibilities which follow if the data finally comes to light. If the groups can establish that they all fall under the same umbrella of potential discrimination, they can be bound together in a class action suit. This opens up a range of possibilities, including the hope that the secretive agency will be forced to expose their practices to the public.

Exit question: The Feds are, at this point, refusing to go after Lerner. If this suit succeeds and all of the internal workings of the system are brought to light, including how they selected the groups singled out for “special attention” in the application process, is there another bite at the apple in the offing? Could Lerner wind up back before Congress? And if so, will she just plead the 5th again?

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April 6, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 696

IRS Logo 2National Review, Making the Lois Lerner Problem Disappear, by Hans von Spakovsky:

On March 31, Ronald Machen, the outgoing U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote House Speaker John Boehner to inform him that the Justice Department would not present Lois Lerner’s contempt citation to a federal grand jury.

The letter explaining his decision is an exercise in misdirection—the kind of misdirection that magicians use to fool an audience. Why? Because at no point in his detailed, seven-page legal analysis does Machen mention the most important point demonstrating that Lerner did, in fact, waive her Fifth Amendment right. ...

In the March 31 letter, although acknowledging that the House Committee found that Lerner’s “opening statement was the equivalent of ‘voluntary’ testimony,” Machen concludes that, in declaring her innocence, Lerner did not waive her Fifth Amendment privilege because “case law establishes that Ms. Lerner’s general denials of wrongdoing did not amount to ‘testimony’ about the actual facts under the Committee’s review.”

Having decided that Lerner did not waive her Fifth Amendment privilege, Machen goes on to claim that it is within his discretion not to present the House’s May 7 contempt citation to a federal grand jury. He bases that claim on his reading of a 1984 legal opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. That despite the federal law, which provides that, once the House of Representatives has voted to find a witness in contempt, the speaker of the House must certify the matter to the “appropriate United States Attorney, whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action” (emphasis added).

Although this is debatable from a legal standpoint, and lawyers can disagree on whether Lerner’s declaration of innocence at the public hearing was or was not testimony that waived her Fifth Amendment privilege, what is not debatable is that there is a gaping hole in Machen’s recitation of the facts and his legal analysis.

According to The Wall Street Journal, right after Lerner’s frustrating March 5, 2014 appearance before the House committee, her lawyer, William Taylor III, told reporters at a press conference that Lerner had given a “lengthy interview” to Justice Department prosecutors “within the last six months, as part of the agency’s investigation into IRS targeting of conservative tea-party groups.” Taylor even admitted that Lerner had freely given DOJ her testimony without getting any promise of immunity from prosecution.

Why is this significant? Because, if Taylor is to be believed, Lerner obviously did not assert her Fifth Amendment privilege when she gave Justice prosecutors a “lengthy interview” about the very subject she had been subpoenaed to discuss with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. While the prevailing rule in most federal courts is that a waiver of the Fifth Amendment privilege at one proceeding does not carry through to another proceeding, that is not the rule in the District of Columbia. ...

Ignoring highly relevant, although perhaps inconvenient, facts, outgoing U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen has issued a flawed legal analysis. It reaches an erroneous, but politically expedient, conclusion—one that gives Lerner a pass and further hinders congressional efforts to get to the bottom of this scandal. It’s a pretty slick trick. No wonder Machen’s pulling a disappearing act.

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April 5, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 695

IRS Logo 2Daily Mail, Tea Party Groups Win Round 1 in Court as Federal Judge Demands IRS's List of All 298 Conservative Nonprofits It Targeted:

  • Right-wing groups want court to let them sue the IRS in a class-action lawsuit for violating their constitutional right to equal treatment
  • IRS applied different criteria to right-wing groups, holding up their applications for years while liberal organizations skated through
  • Obama administration fought the release of a list of 298 groups it denied tax-exempt status beginning in 2010, citing privacy concerns
  • Judge in Cincinnati overruled the government and ordered the IRS to hand over the list
  • If court 'certifies' class-action status, the tea party groups will be free to demand emails, phone records and other documents

Additional press and blogosphere coverage:

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April 4, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ex-IRS Ethics Office Lawyer Disbarred For … Ethics Violations

Washington Times, Ex-IRS Ethics Office Lawyer Disbarred For … Ethics Violations:

A lawyer who worked in the IRS ethics office was disbarred Thursday by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which concluded she misappropriated a client’s funds from a case she handled in private practice, broke a number of ethics rules and showed “reckless disregard for the truth” in misleading a disbarment panel looking into the matter.

The lawyer, Takisha Brown, reportedly had bragged that she would never be punished because her boss would protect her, but an IRS spokesman said Wednesday that she was no longer an employee at the agency.

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April 3, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

The IRS Scandal, Day 694

IRS Logo 2Investor's Business Daily editorial, Lois Lerner Gets Off - Hillary Clinton Breathes Easier:

The Justice Department says Lois Lerner, who used her IRS office to target the Tea Party, didn't waive her Fifth Amendment rights before Congress and won't be prosecuted for contempt over her missing emails. ...

Lois Lerner, poster child for hard-drive crashes and missing emails, won't face charges for contempt of Congress. ... After pleading her innocence at that 2013 hearing, Lerner went on to invoke her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. This raised the question of whether the Constitution let her remain silent after she was not silent and pleaded her case.

The House decided that no, it doesn't. In May of last year it voted to hold her in contempt of Congress. The Ways and Means Committee went so far as to send the Justice Department a criminal referral with potential charges that could have meant 11 years in jail.

Lerner waived her rights not only when she pleaded her innocence before Congress, but also when she shared with DOJ information she was withholding from Congress.

Hans Von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, says government officials can't pick and choose when and where they invoke their Fifth Amendment rights. They can't legally give information to the DOJ that they withhold from Congress. "When Lerner gave a lengthy interview to the government, she waived the Fifth. There's no doubt about it," says Von Spakovsky. "The law is crystal clear here in the District of Columbia."

But not so clear, it seems, to the political wagon circlers at the Justice Department.

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April 3, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 693

IRS Logo 2On his final day in office as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen Jr. sent this 7-page letter to Speaker John Boehner informing him that the Department of Justice will not pursue contempt of Congress charges against Lois Lerner.

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April 2, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 692

IRS Logo 2Bloomberg, IRS Chief Says Agency’s High-Profile Mistakes Are Behind It:

The IRS has fixed its errors, such as improper extra scrutiny of Tea Party groups, and they won’t happen again, the tax agency’s commissioner said Tuesday.

“The changes are so significant throughout the agency that you could hang a sign out at the front of the headquarters saying ‘Under New Management,’” Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

The IRS has imposed limits to prevent problems such as overspending on conferences and videos, and inappropriate scrutiny of politically oriented nonprofit groups, he said.

“The problems do come from a prior era. We have addressed them so we think they won’t happen again,” he said. “It really is a new day at the IRS. It’s not the IRS of 2010, 2011 or even 2012.”

To bolster his point, Koskinen said 46 percent of the agency’s executives -- including two-thirds of the senior leadership team -- have left since October 2011. While the IRS is a large agency and will always have some problems, the key is to find and address them quickly, he said.

Congress has been investigating the IRS and restricting its budget since May 2013, when the agency revealed it had given extra scrutiny to the applications of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. Other issues -- including lavish conferences, an embarrassing Star Trek-themed video and bonuses paid to tax-delinquent employees -- emerged after that.

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April 1, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Robin Williams Left Publicity Rights (Restricted For 25 Years) to Charity, Avoiding IRS Dispute Embroiling Michael Jackson's Estate

WilliamsHollywood Reporter, Robin Williams Restricted Exploitation of His Image for 25 Years After Death:

[O]ne of the more innovative aspects of Robin Williams' estate planning ... might just might become a model for other celebrities preparing for their demise. ... According to a review of the Robin Williams Trust — filed as an exhibit last Wednesday — Williams bequeathed rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to the Windfall Foundation, a charitable organization set up by Williams' legal reps at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps.

There are two important facets of this provision.

First, the Trust restricts exploitation of Robin Williams' right of publicity for 25 years after his death. ...

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March 31, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sign Up For An Account At IRS.gov Before Crooks Do It For You (And Steal Your Refund)

RefundKrebs on Security, Sign Up at irs.gov Before Crooks Do It For You:

If you’re an American and haven’t yet created an account at irs.gov, you may want to take care of that before tax fraudsters create an account in your name and steal your personal and tax data in the process. ...

The IRS’s process for verifying people requesting transcripts is vulnerable to exploitation by fraudsters because it relies on static identifiers and so-called “knowledge-based authentication” (KBA)  — i.e., challenge questions that can be easily defeated with information widely available for sale in the cybercrime underground and/or with a small amount of searching online.

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March 31, 2015 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 691

IRS Logo 2Forbes, How Obama's IRS And Justice Department Killed The Targeting Scandal, by Robert W. Wood:

The IRS applied extra scrutiny because Mr. Obama’s IRS and Justice Department didn’t like the Supreme Court’s decision, presumably fearing that organizations could exercise free speech rights the Supreme Court said they had. Five years later, and two years after the planted bar association question, we remain partly in the dark. Ms. Lerner won’t testify, and we are still told, including by the President of the United States, that there was not a smidgen of corruption at the IRS.

We are told that the IRS is fixed, the targeting will never happen again, and this was not audit targeting anyhow. Some say these organizations shouldn’t be exempt in any event. Now, though, a comprehensive and disturbing report from Politico enumerates the results the IRS has actually achieved despite platitudes from the Obama administration that the system is fixed.

Far from fixed and never happening again, Politico has exposed the seemingly well designed IRS action of death by delay. It is just one more nail in the coffin Professor Paul Caron catalogs in the IRS scandal, now in day 689. Politico painstakingly describes the tale of woe by at least a half-dozen conservative applicants who, amazingly, are still waiting for an answer. The extent of their hardship varies, and some may still receive relief.

Yet we have by now so often been told by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that the good works of un-targeting the targeted is done. Maybe, but some people are waiting still five years on.  ... Many conservative groups withdrew their applications and gave up. Others changed their names and focus. Some went belly-up while waiting. Of course, in all this recent history, it is worth recalling that in March 2012, former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman testified there was “absolutely no targeting” by the IRS of conservative and/or Tea Party organizations. On November 9, 2012, Mr. Shulman stepped down as Commissioner, replaced by Steven Miller.

On May 14, 2013, four days after Ms. Lerner’s planted question and feigned lament about it, the Inspector General issued a report confirming targeting. On May 22, 2013, Ms. Lerner professed her innocence, then took the Fifth. Next day, she was placed on administrative leave. On June 20, 2013, the IRS paid $70 million in bonuses. Ms. Lerner received $42,000, and former Commissioner Miller received $100,000.

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March 31, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 30, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 690

Scientology 2Wall Street Journal, Some Things to Fear in ‘Going Clear’:

Watching Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief can be a depressing experience, and not just for the two hours in which the HBO documentary runs. The haunting archival imagery—a powerful element here—fades after a few days, and much of what is said has been said before. Yet whether you come away seeing Scientology as a cult that ensnares vulnerable people or as a faith of self-empowerment, the film leaves a terrible taste of too much information. This must be its point, but take heed just the same.

The documentary is based on the 2013 book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright, who provides on-screen commentary here. It was directed by Alex Gibney, who also made the 2012 HBO documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, about sexual abuse in the Catholic church. ...

As grim and creepy as much of “Going Clear” is, nothing is more disturbing than the account of how Scientology heavies bullied the IRS—using some 2,400 lawsuits and personal investigations of agency officials—into granting Scientology tax-exempt status as a church in 1993. What does it tell you that even back then, some unelected folks in California had more power than members of the U.S. Congress do today as they attempt to investigate the IRS—for using targeting tactics to intimidate people.

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March 30, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 689

IRS Logo 2Politico, From IRS: 'Death by Delay':

Nearly two years after the IRS was exposed for improperly sidetracking requests for tax exemptions from tea party groups, POLITICO has learned that at least a half-dozen conservative applicants are still waiting for an answer.

This challenges repeated assertions by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that his embattled agency has “completed” a set of recommendations to fix the problem and address a backlog of nearly 300 applications, some of which had been pending already for three years.

The groups that are still waiting include Karl Rove’s giant Crossroads GPS, which spent at least $26 million against Democrats in the last election cycle. But most of the half dozen are mom-and-pop outfits from New Mexico to New Jersey, run by volunteers out of their own houses and operating at a fraction of Crossroads’ budget.

The years-long delay has gutted these groups’ membership, choked their ability to raise funds, forced them to reserve pots of money for possible back taxes and driven them into debt to pay legal bills. ...

The agency said it cannot comment on specific cases, but it deflected blame, in part, to the Justice Department. When an applicant is suing the IRS, Justice also has a say in whether to issue a final ruling during litigation. Almost all the groups in limbo have taken the IRS to court.

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March 29, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Grant Recipients For 2015

LITC LogoThe IRS announced yesterday (IR-2015-61) that it has awarded $10.25 million in matching grants to 132 Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) for the 2015 grant cycle (Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2015). Through the LITC program, the IRS awards matching grants of up to $100,000 a year to qualifying organizations. For the 2015 grant cycle, the IRS awarded LITC grants to 132 organizations. For the full list of grant recipients, see here. For a list of the 39 law school tax clinic grant recipients, and the amount of their grants, see below the fold:

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March 28, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 688

IRS Logo 2Forbes, House Considers Bill To Stop IRS Targeting, Fire IRS Employees Who Do, by Robert W. Wood:

The House Committee on Ways and Means is busy with a bill that could change the IRS. H.R. 709, the Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act, calls for firing IRS employees who take certain official actions for political purposes. The fact that such a bill has been introduced makes you wonder. Isn’t that the law already? Not really.

Everyone wants to feel secure that they will be dealt with fairly by the IRS. The tax system is full of special rules, and no one can master them all. Thus, one taxpayer may be treated very differently from another who is seemingly in the same position. That probably isn’t fair, but don’t confuse this with fundamental procedural fairness and non-discrimination. That is at the heart of the IRS targeting debate, and why the issue is so terribly important to the tax system as a whole. ...

The proposed law would expand the scope of the violation concerning an IRS employee threatening to audit a taxpayer for the purpose of extracting personal gain or benefit. It would also cover an IRS employee who threatens to audit someone for political purposes.

The proposal requires the IRS to terminate an employee who, for political purposes or personal gain, undertakes official action with respect to a taxpayer or, depending on the circumstances, fails to do so, delays action or threatens to perform, delay or omit such official action. An ‘official action’ here would include an audit or examination.

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March 28, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, March 27, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 687

IRS Logo 2Town Hall, Congress Should Protect the Fair Treatment for All Donations:

Beginning in 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) systematically targeted taxpayers based on their political beliefs. Unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats at the IRS deliberately slowed and denied applications for tax-exempt status because the applicants did not share their politics. Although it’s deeply concerning that unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats at the IRS were using the tax code to restrict free speech, what’s more unfathomable is that Congress has done very little to date to protect individuals from future IRS targeting.

Congress should act to protect citizens of all political persuasions from similar politically-motivated targeting in the future. Thankfully the House Ways and Means Committee is currently working on legislation that would help. The bill prohibits the IRS from applying the federal gift tax to contributions to tax-exempt organizations.

The original intent of the federal gift tax was to stop taxpayers from sidestepping the federal death tax—i.e., transferring gifts of money while an aging taxpayer is still alive instead of paying a 40 percent tax on the entire estate after death. Congress did not enact the gift tax to apply to contributions made to tax-exempt organizations.

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March 27, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 686

IRS Logo 2National Journal, There's an IRS Investigation That's Bipartisan and Leak-Free. Really.:

The Senate Finance Committee's investigations team is highly caffeinated.

How else could it have gotten through more than a million pages of documents in the last two years? There is an art to the kind of mind-numbing digging that these sleuths do. They set weekly goals for the number of pages reviewed, but they build in time for breaks. The Republican lead investigator tries to make sure her team spends only half its days in document-review mode and the other half doing something else. Every discovery must be fact-checked; the most important goal is to be as meticulous and thorough as possible, no matter how long it takes.

Welcome to the only bipartisan investigation of the Internal Revenue Service in town. The group consists of roughly half a dozen staffers from both Chairman Orrin Hatch's committee roster and that of ranking member Ron Wyden. They have become chummy over the last few years. Republican and Democratic aides meet regularly to share "hot docs" and observations from their individual perusals. As one aide put it, "There's no 'hide the ball' going on."

The goal of the investigation is to reach a common understanding of the facts, which is no small endeavor when it involves one of the highest-profile scandals of the Obama presidency. If IRS officials did actually subject tea-partiers' tax-exempt applications to questionable scrutiny, that is an intolerable breach of public trust, said Hatch and then-Chairman Max Baucus in a 2013 joint letter to the IRS. Hatch was the committee's ranking member at the time, and that letter launched the investigation. Wyden took over the project when Baucus stepped down last year to become the U.S. ambassador to China.

Democrats and Republicans definitely don't agree about whether there was a political conspiracy at work in the IRS before the 2012 elections. Those kinds of conclusions are matters of interpretation and ideology that have derailed other congressional investigations that attempted to include Democrats.

To keep away from such incendiary questions, investigators on the Finance Committee have pledged to focus solely on what happened. Did the IRS selectively subject certain groups based on their political orientation to additional scrutiny when they requested tax-exempt status? What words or phrases did IRS staff look for when determining which applications would be pulled for additional review? Did that strategy violate internal policy? Was the White House involved?

Since the investigators' primary goal is to keep Republicans and Democrats at the table, they work hard to keep politics out of it. ...

The Finance Committee's report will be a different animal, aides from both parties say. They are examining the same questions that others have probed, but they aim to be seen—if such a thing is even possible on Capitol Hill—as completely objective in their conclusions. Something obviously went awry at the IRS. They want to give the public specifics about what it actually was.

Hatch and Wyden plan to offer their staff's findings of IRS misconduct together and (hopefully) free of political statements. That will happen later this year, barring any unforeseen developments. Staffers say the bulk of the report will consist of the facts on which both sides have agreed and the conclusions they have jointly drawn.

But bipartisanship can only go so far. After the joint conclusions, each side will then release its own views about what those agreed-upon facts mean—separately.

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March 26, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

305,000 Federal Workers/Retirees Owe $3.3 Billion in Back Taxes

The IRS yesterday released its annual federal employee/retiree tax delinquency report, showing that 304,665 federal workers and retirees owed more than $3.5 billion in back income taxes as of September 30, 2014 (a 6.95% increase over last year), a delinquency rate of 3.12%.

The highest delinquency rates among Executive Departments are:

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March 24, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS Releases FY 2014 Data Book

2014 Data Book CoverIR-2015-58 (Mar. 24, 2015), IRS Releases FY 2014 Data Book:

The Internal Revenue Service today released the 2014 IRS Data Book [individual tables] snapshot of agency activities for the fiscal year.

“Fiscal Year 2014 marked the fourth consecutive year IRS appropriations were reduced,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “These reductions required us to change our approach to taxpayer service and enforcement operations; with fewer resources, we saw decreases in the number of phone calls answered and the number of audits completed.”

The report describes activities conducted by the IRS from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014, and includes information about returns filed, taxes collected, enforcement, taxpayer assistance, and the IRS budget and workforce among others. The 2014 Data Book contains charts that show trends, such as the decline in the number of audits and the decline in telephone and in-person tax assistance and increases in the use of online resources and volunteer tax assistance.

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March 24, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 684

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Report Says Former IRS Employees -- Think Lois Lerner -- Can Still Peruse Your Tax Returns, by Robert W. Wood:

Could Lois Lerner still take a look at your tax returns on IRS computers? It sounds preposterous, but a new watchdog report says former IRS employees still have access to IRS computer systems long after they have no official business with the information. The report is by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. The GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. In the case of IRS security, the report says not well.

This report cites significant deficiencies in the security of IRS financial reporting systems. Millions of Americans who are legally required to file taxes are fearful about fraud. The report says the IRS needs to continue improving controls over financial and taxpayer data. In the case of former IRS workers with continuing access to IRS data systems, they need to be cut off.

One co-author of the report said the IRS horde of taxpayer data can be used by identity thieves. The timing couldn’t be worse for the IRS. The IRS is failing to secure its massive computer systems, leaving private taxpayer data vulnerable to fraudsters and hackers, the new report from the GAO reveals.

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March 24, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 23, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 683

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Should IRS Have Guns? How About Email?, by Robert W. Wood:

How would you like seeing gun-toting IRS Agents at your door? In comparison, a correspondence audit doesn’t sound so bad. Only the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS gets to carry guns, and they say they need them. The IRS has a hard job to do, and being charged with collecting taxes isn’t easy. Yet some people are extra worried about having this already very powerful organization waving weapons around. ...

You might feel especially queasy about the IRS having guns given all the ‘smidgens of corruption’ talk of the last two years. They can’t seem to even hang on to emails. People are more disillusioned about the IRS today than in the past. With all those lost Lois Lerner emails, her hard drive crashed, and there was nothing backed up? Well, not exactly.

In Hearings of the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform on February 26, 2015, J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General, said he is investigating possible criminal activity at the IRS. The hearings also revealed the fact that investigators have recovered another 32,000 emails relating to Lois Lerner. Yet even that wasn’t the most disturbing revelation. ...

House Members were told that the IRS had not even asked for the backup tapes when the ‘hard drive crash’ excuse was first used. That contradicted the prior testimony of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. He had testified to the effect that recovery efforts had been thorough, and that the tapes couldn’t be accessed. The IRS claims to have spent $20 million responding to congressional inquiries, producing documents and providing agency officials to testify at hearings.

It now appears that no one may have asked, which almost sounds like the Keystone Cops. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said, “It looks like we’ve been lied to, or at least misled.” Treasury Deputy Inspector General Timothy Camus said, “We recovered quite a number of emails, but until we compare those to what’s already been produced we don’t know if they’re new emails.”

Mr. Camus said it took investigators only two weeks to locate the computer tapes, and about four months to find Ms. Lerner’s emails on the tapes. Several Oversight Committee Members questioned how diligent the IRS had been, given how quickly the investigators now were able to find them. Yet an IRS statement repeats the tax agency’s full cooperation. It has not been inexpensive.

With all of the controversy facing the IRS and the tax system these days, it can seem doubly scary to contemplate tax collectors being armed.

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March 23, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 682

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Al Sharpton, Hillary Clinton, Lois Lerner Share Recordkeeping Tips, by Robert W. Wood:

We may never get the full story of Hillary Clinton’s emails, or Lois Lerner’s for that matter. Both were savvy enough to be selective. One can add Al Sharpton to the clever trio, although his contribution to the game may be more old-fashioned: fires that destroy tax records. In his own low tech way, Rev. Sharpton has managed to keep tax problems under raps that would be catastrophic for mere mortals. 

As Americans look for receipts and pour over their records, some may be  struck by the odd serendipity. Maybe we all will learn that no one in government knows how to use email except Hillary Clinton. Even before we knew that Mrs. Clinton never used the State Department email system, President Obama was adamant that there was no smidgen of corruption at the IRS. Employees were confused. Cincinnati went rogue. Etc.

Yet in recent hearings of the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, the Treasury Inspector General testified that he is investigating possible criminal activity at the IRS. All this as Mrs. Clinton’s remarkable e-mail drama is acted out–and acted is right. Meanwhile, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.) introduced a bill to bar IRS employees from using non-official e-mail for government business. Lois Lerner allegedly also used her personal account to discuss IRS matters.

Oh, texts too (listen up Mrs. Clinton). In 2013, when the IRS targeting scandal was already brewing, Ms. Lerner asked an IT specialist if the IRS saved texts? No, not automatically, he said, but the IT person also said saving them was possible, so be careful. “Perfect,” was Ms. Lerner’s response. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified that he was unaware of the instant-messaging system. Of course, he also testified at how hard the IRS looked for Lerner’s emails.

Remember all those many millions of dollars of taxpayer money the IRS spent looking? Yet House Members were recently told by the Inspector General that the IT staff of the IRS said they were never even asked for backup tapes to find Lerner’s emails. Deputy Inspector General Tim Camus said finding the emails was easy. “They were right where you would expect them to be,” he told the Oversight Committee on Feb. 27.

A probe for potential criminal activity related to covering-up Lerner’s emails? The fact that the C word is being used by the Inspector General is remarkable. That isn’t proof, of course, but it is astounding, even if that is as far as it goes. Records reveal that Ms. Lerner received $129,000 in bonuses, averaging $43,000 a year on top of her salary during the time she was presiding over alleged discrimination against conservative nonprofits.

Even before Ms. Lerner became the face of the IRS targeting scandal, there were allegations she had prior history of targeting conservatives. She would become what George Will called the scowling face of the state. She repeatedly refused to testify, yet collects a nice federal pension. Proof is so terribly important.

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March 22, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 681

IRS Logo 2American Center for Law and Justice, IRS Bureaucracy Continues to Target Conservatives’ Constitutional Freedoms:

The new IRS commissioner brought in to clean up the corrupt bureaucracy responsible for targeting grassroots conservative groups and infringing upon ordinary Americans’ constitutional freedoms admits that the targeting has not stopped.

Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before the House Appropriations subcommittee this week, admitted that nearly a dozen grassroots conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status are still awaiting determination.

One thing is clear – the unelected and corrupt IRS bureaucracy continues to infringe upon our basic freedoms.

Commissioner Koskinen claimed that he has offered a path to tax-exempt status if these groups would agree to limit their overtly political activity. But the standard offered in this so-called compromise is arbitrary and continues to infringe upon fundamental freedoms. The offer asked our clients and other groups to agree to spend no more than 40% of their resources on political activity.

The Washington Times reported with more:

Mr. Koskinen's agency offered groups still awaiting approval a deal that they could get immediate approval if they promised to limit political activity to 40 percent of their budgets. Conservative lawyers, however, argue that the law and regulations suggest groups should be able to spend 49.9 percent of their money on political activity, and so agreeing to the 40-percent level would be ceding some of their rights to the government.

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March 21, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, March 20, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 680

IRS Logo 2The Blaze, The IRS Is Quietly Trying to Undo Limits on Political Targeting, Spending on Conferences:

House Republicans on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of pushing to eliminate some of the key reforms Congress has imposed on the IRS, including prohibitions on lavish conferences and a ban on applying extra scrutiny to groups based on their political beliefs.

The proposed IRS budget for 2016 put forward by the Obama administration lays out the government’s vision of how the IRS would operate in the next fiscal year, but it doesn’t include those reforms and others Congress has passed.

That prompted House Republicans to ask why those reforms weren’t picked up by the IRS budget for the coming year. They didn’t get an answer, but stressed that Congress still sees these reforms as important.

“Since the IRS targeting and spending scandals, appropriations bills have included prohibitions against targeting U.S. citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights, targeting groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs, and making videos without advance approval,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). ...

The targeting scandal continues to plague the IRS, and has forced the Republican Congress to enact language each year aimed at stopping the IRS from scrutinizing groups depending on their political beliefs. But the IRS has also been wrapped up in the conference scandal, after shelling out more than $800,000 for a lavish event in Nevada. ...

Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), who chairs the subcommittee on financial services, said the proposed elimination of reforms meant to stop these activities adds “insult to injury,” especially since Congress was forced to impose them after several scandals hit the agency. “A provision… that says you cannot target, well, that’s not in the request,” Crenshaw said. 

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March 20, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 679

IRS Logo 2Western Journalism, IG Reports: IRS Now Has All It Needs To Turn Over ‘Lost’ Lerner Emails:

Federal investigators now have the capability to turn over tens of thousands of once-lost Lois Lerner emails.

Last month, Deputy Treasury Inspector General Timothy Camus testified before the House Oversight Committee that it had discovered back-up tapes in a storage facility in West Virginia, which contain over 30,000 Lerner emails. He also stated that at the time, he could not turn over the emails to the committee due to a licensing issue with the company that provides the software needed to match the emails.

The Daily Caller reports that Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s office confirmed Monday that the Treasury IG now has the needed software and will be able to provide all the Lerner emails discovered. Chaffetz serves as chair of the House Oversight Committee.

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March 19, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

GAO: Improper Government Payments Increased 18% in 2014, to $125 Billion; EITC's 27% Error Rate Is Highest of Any Program

GAOGovernment Accountability Office, Government-Wide Estimates and Use of Death Data to Help Prevent Payments to Deceased Individuals (GAO-15-482T):

Government-wide, improper payment estimates totaled $124.7 billion in fiscal year 2014, a significant increase of approximately $19 billion from the prior year’s estimate of $105.8 billion. The estimated improper payments for fiscal year 2014 were attributable to 124 programs spread among 22 agencies.

The increase in the 2014 estimate is attributed primarily to increased error rates in three major programs: the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Medicare Fee-for-Service and Medicaid programs, and the Department of the Treasury’s Earned Income Tax Credit program. These three programs accounted for $80.9 billion in improper payment estimates, or approximately 65 percent of the government-wide total for fiscal year 2014. Further, the increases in improper payment estimates for these three programs were approximately $16 billion, or 85 percent of the increase in the government-wide improper payment estimate for fiscal year 2014.

The EITC's 27.2% error rate is far greater than any of the listed government programs.

EITC

March 18, 2015 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 678

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal Editorial Report, Post Clinton:

Paul Gigot: Well, just in time for 2016, the Justice Department has announced that it is gearing up to prosecute coordination between candidates and outside groups, a move that senior editorial page writer Collin Levy says should worry Republicans in particular and the super PACs that support them.

So, Collin, why is this important, this announcement, and why did they do it now?

Collin Levy: Well, I think you hit it right on the head. They did it now because the election is heating up. Look, Paul, this is scary because illegal coordination happens when a campaign is directly organizing its message with an outside group, which is then effectively spending money on the campaign’s behalf.

Gigot: And that’s illegal. That’s illegal.

Levy: Yes, that’s illegal. But what’s scary here is all the Justice Department really needs is the allegation that that is happening, and then they can go on a fishing expedition, subpoenaing documents, bank records, all sorts of things, immense numbers of records from campaigns in an effort to find the needle in the haystack.

Gigot: Well, the definition of coordination is pretty slippery. I mean, it’s not—I mean, so people may know each other in an outside group and know somebody on the campaign. They may have worked for them previously. What is illegal is calling them up on the phone and saying: “Hey, now we want you to run a $5 million buy in Iowa to influence this race.” But if it’s just sort of in the ether that, you know, we understand the message, we’ve been paying attention to the newspapers and there’s no active coordination, it’s not illegal. But you’re saying this can become a fishing expedition that can dig into everything inside a campaign and create havoc and with a mere accusation, is that fair?

Levy: Yeah, that’s certainly fair. We saw that happen in Wisconsin with the allies of Scott Walker, who, all of a sudden, had prosecutors literally subpoenaing thousands of pages of documents. The same thing could happen with the Justice Department. The fact that they used the words that they were going to “aggressively pursue” possible coordination offenses here I think with us meant as a scare tactic, too. It was meant to put these campaigns on alert. “Hey, you know, we’re watching you.”

Gigot: And there’s a link here, is there not—and this is really interesting—between the Justice Department figure who’s announced this, Richard Pilger, who runs the campaign crime section, and the IRS figure, Lois Lerner, who ran the tax-exempt section of IRS that had harassed conservative groups. Put that together for us.

Levy: Yeah, that’s right. Back in 2010, Mr. Pilger was emailing with Lois Lerner saying, hey, maybe we should look at the possibility of prosecuting some of these tax-exempt groups for any false statements they make on their applications here. So, you know, you get the real sense that he’s a true believer and I think that’s something we should be very wary of.

Gigot: So, Kim, how should Republican campaigns respond to this?

Kim Strassel: Well, look, you have to step back and put this in context. The IRS and the Justice Department thing, this is all part and parcel. More broadly, too, look at the disclosure laws that the Obama administration has wanted to impose on corporations. This is not necessarily about keeping campaign finance law in good order. This is about shutting people up. It’s about making them not talk. So Republicans—that’s going to be the threat to them. And they’re going to have to, I think, continue operating as they normally do. If the Justice Department comes sniffing, make an issue about this.

Most of the groups, by the way, too, Paul, they have teams of incredibly experienced lawyers who do know all the rules.

Gigot: Right.

Strassel: You know, and are keeping them in check. They have to be doubly careful about that, too.

Dan Henninger: Two words.

Gigot: To lawyer up.

Henninger: Two words. Exactly. This is the Democratic obsession, Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that allowed the Republicans to compete on the basis of money with the Democrats. The Democrats are going to take the Republicans down because of Citizens United. This is the method they’ll use.

Gigot: This could pop up at any time during the election campaign.

Henninger: Just intimidate them.

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March 18, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 677

IRS Logo 2The Daily Caller, No More Excuses: Obama Admin Has What It Needs To Give Up Lerner’s Emails:

Obama administration investigators now have everything they need to provide Congress with Lois Lerner’s emails, The Daily Caller has learned.

Treasury Department deputy inspector general Timothy Camus last testified that his office found more than 30,000 of Lerner’s emails, including emails from 2011 that were on a backup tape at a storage facility in West Virginia that the IRS never went to.

But Camus said that the investigation was on hold because his office was haggling over licensing issues with a company that makes special software that Camus said he needs to “match” the emails on the new tapes with the emails that have already been turned over to the House Oversight Committee. Camus said he just needed to make sure that he wasn’t giving Congress emails that it already had.

The Daily Caller has confirmed that the Treasury inspector general’s office has received the special software and is in the process of using it to match the emails.

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March 17, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 16, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 676

IRS Logo 2WND, Do U.S. Presidents Really Make 'Enemies Lists'?, by Joseph Farah:

Four years ago, I wrote a column called “Obama’s enemies list” predicting Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service would subject his domestic political adversaries to politically motivated audits.

How did I know it was coming?

For one thing, my personal tax return in 2009, Obama’s first year in office, was audited. Every single one of my documented deductions was disallowed. The IRS claimed my receipts for books I had purchased for my work as an author, publisher of books, producer of movies and news executive were not substantive enough. They were all Amazon-generated receipts that included dates, purchase price and the fact that they were books. The IRS insisted the receipts had to include the titles of the books purchased. I didn’t think the IRS had any business knowing what I was reading. I still don’t. Because I read a lot of books, it represented a lot of money – more than $8,000 in what the IRS claimed were overdue taxes, with penalties.

Before having my personal tax returns audited in 2009, I had never before faced one in 40 years of professional life. Since then, I have been audited every year Obama has been in office. That’s either a striking coincidence that defies astronomical odds or a striking indictment of IRS policies under Obama. Think about it: No personal audits for four decades, then five out of five years since Obama took office. I fully expect to be audited again for 2014, 2015 and 2016 – Obama’s last three years in office.

But I also expected it because of what I witnessed in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president. During his first two years in office, Democrats had control of the House and Senate. But in the 1994 midterm election, Republicans took over the House in a stunning repudiation of Clinton’s attempt to nationalize health care. The White House was shocked and embarked on a campaign to identify its political enemies and neutralize them. I was high on the list of those targets and paid a big price for investigating corruption and uncovering scandals in the Clinton administration.

Long forgotten by the press, which writes first draft of history, is the fact that Clinton’s “enemies,” lots of them, were targeted for IRS audits: They included individuals, corporations and nonprofits.

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March 16, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 675

IRS Logo 2National Review, Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys:

[I]t is impossible for any person with a functioning central nervous system to believe that Hillary Clinton is telling the truth about her emails, inasmuch as her statements on the matter are in conflict with established facts and in conflict with each other. They simply are not compatible with reality. ...

It is impossible to believe that the IRS and the White House have been telling the truth about that agency’s campaign of political persecution of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 election. ...

It is also corrosive. At some point, members of the press — including those who work for ideological and partisan outlets such as National Review and the New York Times (one of which is honest about what it is) — have a moral and professional responsibility to acknowledge that lies are lies. ...

Oprah.com recently reminded its readers of one of my favorite phrases: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” (The original expression is Polish: “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.”) I may be a little bit (or more than a little bit) sanctimonious about the fact that I am not a Republican, but it does make the process a little more friction-free when it is time to call Republican BS BS. It would be an excellent thing if the Democrats who dominate the major media would develop and exhibit enough independence of mind that they could publicly acknowledge when they — and therefore the country — are being lied to, when they are being actively deceived by people with political power.

Without that, they are the circus — they are the monkeys.

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March 15, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 674

IRS Logo 2Forbes, As Hillary Faces Emailgate, Ex IRS Chief Runs For President, by Robert W. Wood:

As Republicans and Democrats start vying for spots on the 2016 presidential tickets, the presumed Democratic nominee remains Hillary Clinton. Yet she faces what could emerge as a scandal, and like the IRS and its nemesis Lois Lerner, Mrs. Clinton could be undone by emails. The surprise and belated disclosure that Mrs. Clinton used private email rather than State Department email during her term as Secretary of State is at least awkward. ...

With this email gaffe, it could be worth considering dark horse candidates like the head of the IRS. Not the current email-losing-tax-czar Commissioner John Koskinen mind you, but a prior Commissioner of the IRS, Mark Everson. Mr. Everson was head of the IRS for four years under President Bush. Fox’s Neil Cavuto suggested that it would be an unlikely campaign pitch to say “I’m from the IRS and I’m here to help.” ...

But most people in America may not warm to a tax man as President, even without such issues. Mr. Everson’s term at the IRS was not marred in the way of the current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. For most Americans, the IRS targeting scandal and seeming cover-up of the last two years has damaged greatly the image of an already unattractive agency. Anyone associated with the IRS is likely to be viewed with skepticism.

After the targeting scandal had been underway for over a year, Mr. Koskinen testified that recovery efforts had been thorough, but the tapes and emails just couldn’t be found. As if to goad Republicans, he said that millions in taxpayer money was spent looking. Over 250 IRS employees spent 100,000 hours, costing taxpayers at least $14 million. However, the Treasury Inspector General has revealed that the IT people at the IRS say no one even asked them to recover the emails.

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March 14, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 673

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Politico Sat on Allegations Lois Lerner Had Prior History of Targeting Conservatives:

Politico scored a journalistic coup with its exclusive 2014 profile on Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the agency's targeting of conservative groups.

But a former Illinois lawmaker who said Politico contacted him repeatedly that year with questions regarding claims he was targeted by Lerner in the mid-1990s has been left wondering why the news group chose to ignore his documented dealings with the former federal official.

"I was shocked," Al Salvi told the Washington Examiner's media desk, describing what he characterizes as several "lengthy" interviews with Politico reporter Rachael Bade.

Lerner went after his 1996 Senate campaign with a lawsuit totaling $1.1 million — an enforcement action that was eventually thrown out of court — when she was working at the Federal Election Commission, according to Salvi.

"I spent something like an hour and a half talking to Politico about this," said Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency. "And I'm nowhere in the story. They had no intention of using anything I said." ...

And it seems Politico is not the only news organization to ignore Salvi's story, as conservative columnist George Will recently noted. After the IRS hearing and Salvi's Fox News appearance, the Washington Post's George Will in a 2013 column titled "Lois Lerner, the scowling face of the state," repeated the former lawmaker's story.

In another column last week, titled "Rein in the IRS," Will repeated the Salvi story, this time accusing national news organizations of ignoring the serious charge against Lerner. "Roskam's telling of Salvi's story elicited no denial from Lerner," Will wrote. "Neither did the retelling of it in this column. ... No wonder: The story had not been deemed newsworthy by the three broadcast networks' evening news programs, by the New York Times or by the Post."

A Lexis search dated June 4-June 11, 2013, of the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times for coverage of the Salvi story produced no results. A similar Lexis search dated March 2-6, 2014, also produced no results.

Similarly, a TV Eyes search dated June 4-June 11 2013, revealed that neither NBC News, nor CBS News nor ABC News covered Roskam's claim during the IRS hearing. The same was found for a TV Eyes search dated March 2-6, 2014, for Will's repeating of Roskam's claim.

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March 13, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The IRS Has $1 Billion In Tax Refunds for People Who Have Not Filed a 2011 Return

BillionIR-2015-44, IRS Has Refunds Totaling $1 Billion for People Who Have Not Filed a 2011 Federal Income Tax Return:

Federal income tax refunds totaling $1 billion may be waiting for an estimated one million taxpayers who did not file a federal income tax return for 2011, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. To collect the money, these taxpayers must file a 2011 tax return with the IRS no later than Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

"Time is running out for people who didn’t file a 2011 federal income tax return to claim their refund," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "People could be missing out on a substantial refund, especially students or part-time workers. Some people may not have filed because they didn’t make much money, but they may still be entitled to a refund.” ...

Here is the state-by-state breakdown:

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March 12, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 672

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, Eric Holder’s Speech Police: Justice Gears Up to Prosecute Campaign ‘Coordination’:

You know the 2016 election is heating up when the Justice Department announces it’s gearing up to prosecute campaign-finance “coordination” between candidates and outside groups. If you thought the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits was troubling, watch what Justice can do to criminalize political speech. ...

A coordination investigation can be started on almost any pretext. All you need is an allegation that someone talked to someone they should not have. Once the investigation makes it over that low evidentiary hurdle, the feds can comb through every shred of personal and group communications to find illegal contact.

We’ve seen how this wrecking ball works in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker’s conservative allies had their records seized and homes raided based on mere claims of coordination. Justice is now essentially giving itself sway to probe every Republican presidential campaign based on an accusation from some left-wing activist. ...

The head of Justice’s Election Crimes Branch, Richard Pilger, is a proponent of criminal coordination investigations at the Justice Department. Two attendees tell us that at a Practicing Law Institute seminar in September 2014 Mr. Pilger said this explicitly.

Mr. Pilger was also a foot on the gas pedal during the IRS’s increased screening of conservative 501(c) groups. In 2010 he reached out to then IRS tax-exempt chief Lois Lerner about prosecuting nonprofits that engaged in political activity for making false statements on their tax returns. In an October 2010 email exchange, Ms. Lerner and Mr. Pilger discussed the transfer of data on 501(c) organizations. The Justice Department ended up with a database of 1.1 million documents, including protected taxpayer information.

Ms. Lerner knows all about campaign “coordination,” having led a multiyear FEC coordination investigation into the Christian Coalition in the 1990s. Ms. Lerner was pursuing a theory that the group had illegally coordinated its issue advocacy with candidates. That theory was rejected in federal court.

The Justice Department may now be trying to pick up where the IRS and Ms. Lerner left off. Justice spokesman Peter Carr emailed us a statement that the universe of potential criminal prosecution is broad: “The opportunity to commit the crime has increased dramatically with changes in the law that have caused a substantial increase in the amount of independent expenditures and the number of independent expenditure entities.” That’s a new business opportunity for activists at the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 who wrote to Justice last week celebrating the news. But coordination investigations touch on the core of First Amendment protected political speech.

The prospect of a Justice Department asking who talked to whom and when during a political campaign should give even liberals the chills.

Meantime, GOP campaigns better lawyer up because Mr. Pilger’s speech police are gunning for you.

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March 12, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TRAC-IRS: The IRS and the April Surprise

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University has released The IRS and the April Surprise:

TRAC-1Analysis of the latest government case-by-case data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University shows that during January 2015 a total of 131 taxpayers were prosecuted as a result of IRS investigations.

The data tracking trends also show that many IRS prosecutions are timed to coincide with tax filing season, presumably to help remind taxpayers of their legal obligations to avoid underreporting taxes owed on the returns they file.

Year after year, April consistently has the greatest number of criminal prosecutions as a result of IRS investigations — two-thirds or more higher than those seen in January. Figure 1 and Table 1 show both the 10-year average as well as prosecution figures from January through December 2014.

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March 11, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 671

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, Clinton’s E-mail Drama Is Acted Out on the World Stage:

Several days before the world found out that Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail account exclusively for all communication as secretary of state, including work-related conversations, a Republican congressman sought to bar Internal Revenue Service employees from using their non-official e-mail for government business.

Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.) introduced a bill on Feb. 27 directed at the IRS and intended to address allegations that former IRS official Lois Lerner used her personal account to discuss IRS matters. A House Republican-conducted report released in March 2014 said: “Her willingness to handle this information on a non-official e-mail account highlights her disregard for confidential taxpayer information.”

Marchant’s somewhat prescient legislation highlights a loophole in the Federal Records Act. While employees of the federal government are discouraged from using personal e-mail, it’s not barred. The law was updated in late 2014 to say that if personal e-mail is used for work, it must be turned over to be officially archived within 20 days.

In September 2014, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Lerner e-mails, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said it’s policy not to use personal e-mail.

“One of the things we’re doing is making sure everybody understands that you cannot use your e-mail for IRS business,” he said. “That’s been a policy; we need to reinforce that.”

But the IRS employee manual says only that “sensitive but unclassified” data can’t be e-mailed outside the IRS network — there’s nothing about an outright prohibition.

In the case of Lerner, House Republicans wanted her e-mails during their investigation into whether the IRS had targeted nonprofits for their political leanings when considering tax-exempt status.

Though the Clinton story shone a light on the federal government’s e-mail policy, Marchant’s office said he doesn’t have any plans to expand the bill to prohibit official business on all feds’ personal e-mail accounts.

Human Events, No One in Government Knows How to Use Email — Except Hillary Clinton:

[R]evelations that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used her private email address, hdr22@clintonemail.com, during her tenure to conduct State Department business, [brought] the topic of email and Internet security back into the national limelight. ... A public probing of Clinton’s email set-up has revealed a staggering ignorance on the part of government officials when it comes to email specifically, and technology more generally. ...

A much bigger technological foul on the part of the government is the scandal surrounding the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of the emails of Lois Lerner, the former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit.

Faced by the House Committee on Oversight’s investigation into its alleged targeting of tax-exempt conservative nonprofit organizations, the IRS claimed to have lost up to two years’ worth of Lerner’s emails.

How could this be possible?

Because of a “computer crash,” IRS officials claimed. And any back-ups were automatically deleted, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. This, despite the fact that emails are stored on cloud servers and were explicitly required by law to be recorded and backed up in a secure location.

Months later, it’s now been revealed those emails are not only recoverable, but an archive of up to 33,000 emails, up to 10 years’ worth, were easily found by a separate department.

Tim Camus, deputy inspector general of the Treasury Department, said finding the emails was done without issue. “They were right where you would expect them to be,” he told the Oversight Committee on Feb. 27.

Federal officials are now probing for potential criminal activity related to the covering-up of Lerner’s emails.

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March 11, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)